Dreamland: A Frank Romero Retrospective

Museum of Latin American Art

The Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) is proud to host a retrospective exhibition of work by legendary L.A. Chicano artist Frank Romero. Opening in February 2017, the exhibition spans over 50 years of the artist’s career. 

The Chicano Art Movement represents attempts by Mexican-American artists to establish a unique artistic identity in the United States. The movement worked to resist and challenge dominant social norms and stereotypes for cultural autonomy and self-determination. Throughout the movement and beyond, Chicanos have used art to express their cultural values, as protest or for aesthetic value.

Frank Romero (U.S., b. 1941)
Going to the Olympics (1984–2011), 2011. Oil on canvas, 54 x 144 inches. Collection of Jim Garrison.

Image:Courtesy of J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA

The Chicano artist collective Los Four originally consisted of Frank Romero (b. 1941), Carlos Almaraz (1941–1989), Roberto de la Rocha (b. 1937) and founder Gilbert Luján(1940–2011). All of Los Four's members were college-educated political activists who with other artists formed the intellectual vanguard of the Chicano art movement in the 1970s.

L to R: Gilbert “Magu” Lujan, Carlos Almaraz, Frank Romero, Beto de la Rocha at the opening of the LACMA exhibition, Los Four (1974).

Los Four
Photo by Oscar Castillo (U.S., b. 1945)

Image:Courtesy Oscar R. Castillo Photographic Archives.

“Oscar Castillo's extensive photographic work documenting the Chicano community over the past forty years offers a distinctive visual challenge to the stereotypical representation of East Los Angeles as violent or exotic. Motivated artistically and identifying politically, Castillo photographed Chicano protests, parades, and ordinary public life in what proved a period of profound social and political upheaval.”

Chon A. Noriega, Director
Chicano Studies Research Center
University of California, Los Angeles

Carlos, Frank & Beto
L to R: Carlos Alamaraz, Frank Romero, and Beto de la Rocha.

Photo by Oscar Castillo (U.S., b. 1945)

Image: Courtesy Oscar R. Castillo Photographic Archives

This mural by Frank Romero is a nostalgic overview of the history of the Chicano art and social movement in greater Los Angeles during the 1970s-80s. The mural’s content is also highly autobiographical showing for example: neighborhoods like Boyle Heights, where Romero grew up; Mt. Baldy that he was able to see, before the arrival of smog, memorable landmarks such as Los Angeles City Hall and the Boys Club.

The mural is laden with artistry, personal reflection and historical content. Its imagery combines the urban scene with myths, like La Llorona, and religious manifestations, like Our Lady of Guadalupe and Xilonen the Aztec corn/earth goddess. It shows key political actions and episodes of the Chicano Movement including strikes, marches, the development of Teatro Campesino and the Death of Los Angeles Times reporter Ruben Salazar at the Silver Dollar Bar.

Frank Romero (U.S., b. 1941)
History of the Chicano Movimiento, 1998. Acrylic & graphite on canvas, 7 x 21 ft. Collection of Carnegie Museum Oxnard, CA.

Image:Courtesy of Carnegie Museum Oxnard, CA.

"...a lot of the art that has been done that's called Chicano is politicized. It's about injustice."
Frank Romero

Frank Romero (U.S.,b.1941)
The Arrest of the Paleteros, 1996. Oil on canvas, 96 x 144 in. Collection of Cheech Marin.

Image:Courtesy of Cheech Marin.

"The mini-mural "Pleasantville" is a nostalgic look back at '50s L.A. Romero signals the lurking repression of the era with burning books flying to heaven, but the details of kids making out in convertibles drip with more convincing affection."
William Wilson
LA Times

Frank Romero (U.S., b. 1941)
Pleasantville Color Cartoon, 1997. Acrylic on canvas, 48 x 144 in. Collection of Barbara and Zach Horowitz.

Image: Courtesy of Frank Romero.

In describing his neon work, Frank Romero said, “This is colored light, and you can make it take lines, take the shapes you want. I like to do little sketches. They're childish drawings in a sense, but I always thought interpreting them in this medium would be very pure. These are the things I do all the time, my own personal iconography.”

Frank Romero (U.S., b. 1941)
Hand Gun, 1992. Neon and wood. Collection of Gabriel Jímenez.

Image:Courtesy of Frank Romero.

"My current work came out of my experiences of outings with the family. We drove all over Los Angeles. To drive by car was a lovely experience in the 1950s. The highways were open. I’ve gone from expressions of [lowrider] car images to the conveyances, the freeways and highways that take you places. And in my most recent work its all abstractions, they’re beautiful freeways." Frank Romero

Frank Romero (U.S., b. 1941)
Harbor Freeway, 2010. Acrylic on canvas, 23 3/4 x 35 7/8 in. Collection of Patrick Ela.

Image:Courtesy of J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA.

This painting displays Frank Romero’s robust urban vocabulary steeped in an eclectic mapping of Los Angeles' physical and cultural terrain.

Frank Romero (U.S., b. 1941)
L.A. River, 2005. Oil on canvas, 10 x 46 ft. Collection of Frank Romero.

Image:Courtesy of J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA

Frank Romero (in striped shirt with brush & palette) and his wife are depicted in the center of this 2006 autobiographical painting.

Frank Romero (U.S., b. 1941)
Le Monde, 2006. Oil on canvas, 7 ½ x 16 ft. Collection of Target Corporation.

Image:Courtesy of Target Corporation.

Credits: Story

Dreamland: A Frank Romero Retrospective explores Frank Romero’s robust urban vocabulary steeped in an eclectic mapping of the city’s cultural terrain. The exhibition celebrates the artist's lifelong fascination with city lore and, through his perspective, examines the confluence of American pop culture, Latin American heritage, and the Chicano experience.

MOLAA would like to thank all of the institutions and collectors who made this exhibition possible through their generous loans of artwork.

Dreamland: A Frank Romero Retrospective opens in February 2017 at the Museum of Latin American Art. Dreamland is accompanied by a 100-page full color catalogue with texts by curator Edward Hayes and guest essayist Patrick Ela. For more information visit us at www.molaa.org

The Museum of Latin American Art expands knowledge and appreciation of modern and contemporary Latin American art through its collection, ground-breaking exhibitions, stimulating educational programs, and engaging cultural events.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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